HotelPal 2.0: A first look at the updated lodging reservation app
Business and personal travelers with iPads and iPhones are familiar with Mobiata's travel apps already. The company's FlightTrack (US$4.99) and FlightTrack Pro ($9.99) apps are often listed as "must-have" tools for travelers, and the fun FlightBoard ($3.99) turns your iPhone or iPad into a live flight departure and arrival board for any airport.
Mobiata rolled out the free HotelPal app for iPhone in 2010, and now there's an iPad-optimized version that has shipped along with the updated 2.0 version. What's the app for? Looking at hotel listings for almost any destination, and then actually making reservations from the app. Think of it this way; you're stuck at an airport in a strange city because of a blizzard, and you'd like to find a hotel that isn't too expensive, yet still comfortable and clean. Launching HotelPal on your iPhone or iPad (I looked at the iPad app), the app determines where you are and then immediately populates a map with little price tags indicating the nightly rate. You can also type in a location or tap on a map to drop a location pin, after which HotelPal populates the map with hotel pins and prices.
A side-scrolling list of the hotels featured on the map appears at the bottom of the display, and you can bookmark individual hotels by tapping on a visual bookmark icon. To see the details about a hotel, just tap on the button for it in the list and a brochure view appears.
There's not a lot of information in the brochure view, but it's enough to give you an idea of what the hotel looks like and what amenities it offers. Many of the hotels include a group of photos that you can flick through, which is nice for getting a feel for the layout of the place.
The app provides reservations through Expedia.com, and it takes only two simple steps to create the reservation. Note that for most of the hotels, you will be required to complete prepayment via credit card to make the reservation.
While I usually have reservations made well in advance of my travels, I'm keeping a copy of HotelPal on my iPad for those emergency situations where I may need to get a hotel at a moment's notice. I'm traveling this weekend, and with the weather the way it is, I never know if I'm going to have an unexpected extension to my trip. With HotelPal on my device, I'll always have a way to find and compare hotels at my fingertips.